It makes no difference whether it’s you who makes the decision to go through a divorce, or your partner decides for you, it is still an extremely difficult and emotional time. You are in an “emotional crisis zone” and may want to pull the cover over your head because your life isn’t turning out the way you anticipated it would. You will need to force yourself to focus on, and take care of, important “money” issues during this time as they can have a very strong impact on your financial future. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure, and can hopefully prevent you from having needless aggravation along the path through divorce.
You will want to separate all your joint bank accounts. The best idea is to go to a new/different bank and open your own personal account there. This needs to be done to protect you and what is already in your account. Unfortunately, a lot of people get very greedy when going through a permanent separation and have been known to wipe out bank accounts. This is easily preventable by simply taking the time to go to another bank and transferring your money to a separate account there.
Check all your credit cards and call the accounts where you jointly share the card. Tell them you are going through a divorce and that you would like to cancel the “joint” account and open one in your name alone. Make sure your soon to be ex is not on any of yours. I have heard horror stories of people charging up to the limit on their joint cards so that the other person is responsible for half. Again, this is easily preventable. Call all your joint credit card accounts and separate them now.
At some point, you will be discussing money and how much you are entitled to with your partner. If you have a detailed accountability of what you spend on “living expenses” this will make the procedure easier and less painful. Start doing this by keeping a spending journal and a household spending plan. This will basically show what you have been spending money on for years, in other words, it sets up a history of your expenses. Write down every penny you spend whether you do it in cash, debit card, credit card or by check. The more details in your records, the better.
Speak with other friends, family members, acquaintances or business associates who have gone through a divorce. Support is extremely important during this emotional time and you can find support with groups or individuals. You may be feeling you are out there alone in the world and this will help you see that you are not. It also is a great place to get all your questions answered. There are community support groups available.
Keep a running list of legal questions on a pad of paper that you keep with you at all times. The only stupid question is one that you don’t ask. Brain dump everything you think of. You can fine tune your list before you meet with a professional.
Ask people you know for referrals. If they don’t have any, check with other professionals in your life. Sometimes an insurance agent, banker, accountant, etc. will have someone they can recommend. You can always check with the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and Better Business Bureau in your area. Any place where you go to network is a good place to get referrals as well. You can then verify information with the Legal Bar for your county and state. Once you have some names and have verified their competency, begin meeting and interviewing them. Most attorneys will provide a complimentary consultation. Go in and speak with them and make sure they can answer all your questions. You will need to feel comfortable with the attorney because you will be sharing a lot of personal information. Even if you don’t go to court you still should have professional representation. It is very rare that two people can just go to a mediator and get all their legal issues resolved. Usually, you will need to have an attorney represent you in this instance as well.
You need to gather all financial information and paperwork for all 401K , retirement funds, investment funds, etc. If you have no idea where everything is, don’t despair. Most people don’t consider interviewing and hiring a money coach, or even an accountant, to guide and provide you with a needed checklist. Financial planning is essential for you, for both the short and long term. A money coach helps with your financial education and increases your financial literacy. The more knowledgeable you are, the better prepared you will be when you are in charge of your financial future.
Don't sign off on anything until you have a family law attorney look at it. It sometimes seems easier just to sign something your partner gives you, than make waves and say you want to bring it to your attorney. Do not give in. You absolutely need someone who knows the law in order to review the paperwork and protect you. Your soon to be ex may not be doing anything on purpose to hurt you, but they may not be aware of the laws either. This is all about protecting yourself.
Don't try to be a superstar and go through this alone. It’s ok to be emotional. It’s ok to be upset. It’s ok to have questions about your future and you need to be able to share all these feelings with others who have gone through, or are going through, the same thing. Reach out and get involved with others you know or with a support group. There is strength in numbers and you won’t feel like you are the “only one” going through this.
Don't try to handle the legal work by yourself. Even if you are an attorney, you should have an unbiased person review all your information and give you correct guidance. If you try to do this yourself, you will most likely end up on the losing side of the equation on what you’re entitled to, as far as all the shared assets.
Don't try to handle the financials by yourself. You should have an experienced person give you guidance and help you find all your information. If you try to do this yourself, you will again most likely end up on the losing side of the equation, as far as the money that you are entitled to and also, what you could possibly owe.
Breathe. Take a deep breath. This may seem a bit overwhelming, but if you take one step at a time you will be able to accomplish it all in record time. Try to take action and take care of one thing each day, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the process flows.
Get some emotional support and before you know it you’ll be feeling like a new person. You can look at your divorce as a way to begin your life over again. Remember, when one door closes, another one opens. Just be prepared and protected to be able to walk through it.
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